Obsidian, Notetaking, and KIDS?

This is, admittedly, only tangentially-related to Obsidian, but…I’m noticing that a lot of the resources about note-taking/-making and related subjects – like How to Take Smart Notes and How to Read a Book are written for a pretty intellectual audience. The reading level on these seems to be upper high school or college.

But I have kids I’d like to train up in this concepts from early on, rather than starting with poor practices and having to unlearn/relearn later. (I’ve encouraged my kids to install and start using Obsidian. :wink: ) To that end, I’m wondering if anyone can recommend any resources that are more accessible for maybe middle school/early high school from this perspective? Or am I just going to have to write this myself?


I think what needs to be done is to teach late elementary/Middle School children how to read critically, do proper research and take proper notes, from their unique perspective.
I bet there is a LOT of academic resources for this topic.

Thus far, everything I’ve seen on notetaking for kids is pretty much the conventional “write it all down sequentially” thing. Kids aren’t being taught to read critically or think critically, which is a key reason I’d like to see some focus in this area. (According to the last government literacy study, only 12% of American adults can read at a 9th grade level or higher.) We need to be training kids that age to read critically and take proper notes, but the resources I’ve seen for that are mostly pretty weak.

There is a book – called Whole Novels for the Whole Class, if I recall correctly – that teaches teachers to have students interact with a text in manner that “builds” from concrete observations to ideas. But as I’m sure you can gather from the title, it’s primarily about reading stories.


Here is a good start:



You could start with teaching them to make and arrange notes using index cards. Actually, in earlier generations this is basically how grade school kids were taught to write essays. I was explaining zettelkasten to my mother in law recently and was surprised when she replied that that was taught almost the same thing in grade school in the 70s: read sources, take down information on index cards, put those cards on your desk and link them in a logical order, and then write that out as an essay. I think that kind of concrete approach will make more sense to kids than something on a computer (and personally I’m old fashioned and prefer to avoid computer time for kids as much as possible).


Those kinds of notes were usually facts, right – like for a research paper? Not ideas? It’s not really the one-concept-at-a-time part that’s the challenge; it’s more the thinking aspect of note-taking: paying attention to ideas, ensuring you understand things well enough to restate them in your own words, and recognizing they don’t have to be confined to their original context.

My own kids do a lot of this because I start asking them questions about books and movies as they read/watch them, from early on, so they get in the habit of thinking about the input they’re taking in; we train the habit of asking questions of the media as you go. But it would be good, I think, to be able to present these things as a concrete set of “rules” so they understand what it is they’re doing.


Could be facts or ideas. I don’t know why it has to be one or another :slight_smile:

I’d even say further that opinions or ideas are as good as the facts they’ve based on, and in my experience, really good ideas arise when you’ve got really interesting facts laid out. The two processes should run simultaneously.

I agree that those critical thinking skills are really important—more important than the tools used to develop and use them. I’d simply add that, if a linked thinking tool like Obsidian is a good way to develop those skills, and you want to find a way to use a similar tool with kids, I think index cards are a good way to go. But definitely what you’re talking about is much more important than that.

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  • I believe making connections is a fundamental part of thinking critically. I teach music to pre-school and elementary age children. It’s been my experience that getting them to ahah moments by making connections for them early on is beneficial. The clue is when you hear them say “oh yeah…” or, with pre-school children, observe them mimic vocal phrases back when doing call and answer type repetitions.
  • A connection was made in my mind this morning upon reading Eleanor Konik’s weekly Obsidian Roundup and a link about annotation from a book “Annotation” by Remi H. Kalir and Antero Garcia. Annotation may be a great way to introduce children to making connections, in this case linking in Obsidian. Note taking and, specifically, annotation while reading maybe a way to establish a habit or practice of linking while thinking.
  • Critical thinking is something those of that do it take for granted I believe. Some call it a gift; I’m more inclined to think that it is a practiced skill. While there may be a nature based and genetic predisposition and implied neurodivergence aspect (some minds may not be able to make deep connections between seemingly disparate facts and ideas), I have not seen many children not be able to learn how to make connections and linking when gathering new facts and information.

Exactly. I completely agree. I think, though, that because some of us learned it intuitively, it’s harder to know how to teach someone else who didn’t how to learn the skill intentionally. That’s what I’m concerned with here.

Reading How to Read a Book, for instance, I’m seeing him describe things I already do. I don’t know how I knew to do them; I just do. But seeing him spell out what I’m doing gives me the tools to tell another parent (or teacher) what they’re aiming for with the kids they’re teaching. And it helps to know which of the parenting or teaching practices you’re engaging in are doing what, and what you can’t afford to abandon. Or, to put it another way, it shows us why what we’re doing works.


I’m not sure how much this could help, but I am 12 (grade 7, home-schooled) and have been using Obsidian for note taking for around 6 months. I originally started using it as a way of managing my efforts for my website and Obsidian course, but as of the last month or so I begun to shift my focus more towards note making, and generating ideas and insights through connecting thoughts I had previously had. Even over the last few weeks I have noticed an amazing change in how much more interesting the world is, seeing new thoughts and ‘note trees’ in all sorts of places. Getting back to what I was saying, I have found Nick Milo’s videos (Linking Your Thinking on YouTube) along with his LYT Kit 6 the most helpful in setting my vault up for critical thinking. I find he explains the concepts and benefits of having an external way of expressing yourself very easy to understand. Hope you found this interesting!

These are some of my resources which I think are a good starting square:
What is Obsidian?

What is PKM?

Getting started with Obsidian


Thanks! Is your website public? If so, we’d love to come check it out and support a fellow homeschooler. Can you share a link?